(Image Source: Pixabay)
1. Incense, Cheap Perfume, and Sweat
She hardly reaches the elbow of most of the crowd
In her new pink frock and frilly socks,
She has come to the Puja pandal with her mother and younger sibling
She clasps his hand with the responsibility of being the elder one
The heady smell of burning incense and camphor, and
The sound of the drumbeats creates a trance
The surging crowd presses down on her
Narrowing her peripheral vision
She screams out,
‘Let’s go back home!’
Her voice evaporates into the millions of bodies surrounding her.
And then, the smell of sweat mingled with a cheap perfume
Her eyes water and her nose wrinkle,
A fist cups her bottom
And pinches it hard.
She flinches in pain and with an unknown shame
She turns but
So many faces and so far away from her reach
She is only nine.
2. Burnt Corpse
‘You’re too young to attend the cremation,’ they said.
Death didn’t speak to her from so close till then
She wanted to hear everything.
She didn’t shed a tear, since her grandpa died.
They felt she was not acting normal for a child of ten.
So, they took her.
They placed the body on the pyre
They set it on fire
They set him on fire
The flames licked his limbs with greed
Sometimes, when a body part stood stiff
They would poke it with a stick for the fire’s benefit
The smell of burning human flesh
Still didn’t make her eyes water
She stared at it.
Her arms closed
Her feet apart.
She heard the crackle of flesh and bones
Being devoured by the red, yellow, and orange flames
She was afraid but
With a kind of fear that you hide from the world
The smell of grandpa’s body being burnt to ashes
Stuck on to her nose, forever.